From Shadow to Light

Fred Gottesman
March 1, 2016
Running in my Dreams
March 2, 2016

A psychiatrist overcomes a tragic childhood and debilitating fears by starting a list of goals that span from inspirational to challenging or just pure fun.


Dieting Mania

Spending hours sitting on a chair listening to my psychiatric patients talk, took a toll on my weight. I thought back longingly to the days in the Army when I was too underweight to be drafted into the Navy. I meditated for a long time trying to figure out where all the excess weight was coming from. I ate a light breakfast of toast and coffee, almost no lunch, and several portions of whatever was served for dinner. Wandering around the kitchen late one night, a handful of potato chips in one hand, and bottle of beer in the other, I hit upon the solution. It was the late night munching, the handful of this and the handful of that, which was causing the pounds to start climbing and the needle on the scale to start rising.

I rushed into the living room to share my epiphany with Ruth. She was in the living room folding laundry, while she watched her favorite T.V. show.

“Ruth, Ruth,” I called out.“I’ve just figured out the secret to my weight gain, and the absolutely perfect way to lose it!”

Ruth looked up with a modicum of interest. “Yeah, what is it?”

I was bursting with enthusiasm. “It’s like this. I realized that it’s the second supper I eat that is causing all the pounds to pile up. So we’re not going to eat dinner at home. Every night we’re going to go to a different restaurant. A restaurant is the ultimate in portion control!”

Ruth’s eyes were already straying back to the T.V. “Whatever you’d like Alvin. Which one do you want to go to tomorrow?”

I was warming up to this plan. “I don’t want to have long arguments each night, about which restaurant we’re going to. Let’s just go to Veterans Highway—that street is lined with restaurants—and just go to them in order.”

It was a few months into my new diet and things were going great. I had dropped a few pounds, because when I came home from the restaurant, there were no seconds of dinner to eat, and as per my request, the cupboards and fridge were bare.

As usual, I parked the car, and Ruth and I walked to the next restaurant in line. But this time things didn’t go according to The Plan. Ruth took one look at the restaurant. “I’m not going into this restaurant,” she said, “It’s filthy.”

I peered inside the window. It was hard to see inside because the glass could use a bit of a wash. She was right. It was a little dirty. But rules were rules.

“We can’t go anywhere else,” I said firmly. “We make an exception tonight, and that

will be the end. Every night we’ll have endless arguing about where to go.”

“Alvin, that’s ridiculous,” she said. “This restaurant is dirty. I couldn’t care less about

what kind of food we eat each night, as long as it’s clean. I promise you, I’m not going to

start arguing each night.”

I stood firm though, and eventually Ruth acquiesced. The food was terrible, the service

even worse, and that night Ruth got sick with agonizing stomach pains. That was the end

of the Veterans Highway diet.

My next diet was the monotony diet. I figured that if I ate the same food every single night for dinner, I would eventually get sick of it, and eat less and less each night. So for weeks on end, I would eat only tuna fish, hamburgers or gefilta fish. When gefilta fish was the food of choice, I would go to the local store and buy a new jar every few days. As I placed the jar of Manischewitz gefilta fish balls on the counter, the cashier remarked, “It’s funny, we never used to sell much of this gefilta fish. But recently, we have sold so much of it. I guess it’s really gotten popular!”

I didn’t bother informing the sweet brunette cashier that the only one buying all this gefilta fish was none other than me.

My last resort at dieting was to pay my kids fifty cents—a princely sum—every time one of them caught me eating after dinner. If I would just avoid the fridge and stay out of the kitchen, I could have saved myself a lot of money. But I had a compulsion that kept on sending me to that fridge again and again. After a few weeks of paying out substantial sums of money, I got smart. I started sneaking into the kitchen when everyone was sleeping and helping myself to the fridge contents. One night I crept out of bed as usual after everyone was asleep and softly padded into the kitchen. Just as my hand was reaching into the pot of cold pasta, suddenly all four of my kids, Jeanie, Diane, Lisa and Larry, jumped out from the corners of the kitchen. “Caught you Dad!” they announced gleefully. “We caught you!” And they stuck out their hands, “fifty cents please.” And that was the end of the Pay­Food diet.

It became a lot easier to just buy my clothes one size larger.



  1. […] (Read his full personal history here) […]

  2. Gert Levitan says:

    Dear Nechamie,
    Just read the beginning of your Grampa Alvin’s story and hope I get to read the Whole thing.
    I am married to Alvin’s 1st cousin on the Cohen side. Your Dad was away in the service so I
    didnt get to meet him until he came home-and on a New year’s eve at a Gates of Prayer
    party Sam said that Alvin and Ruth were there and he wanted to introduce us. Ruthie
    Gottesman had been our counselor/club leader at the YMHA girls’ group of Daughter’s of
    Judea when she was in high school/college so I knew Ruthie from before just about the time
    they got married. BUT Sam’s cousin was a Psychiatrist !! What would he think of me? I was and am
    a big person., and very self-conscious. Wearing platform soles and the high heels of the ’40’s
    didn’t help. Alvin was warm and cordial as he looked UP at me……well we didn’t get to see much of
    them afterwards and it wasn’t until much later that we did become close to them–and then we
    got to be with them quite a lot., and we did so enjoy their warmth and fun.

    I am making notes now and trying to get them in some order to send them to you so you can put
    them together. I shall keep in touch with you I have your info. Please give my regards to your
    parents. Best to all. Gert

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